The Four Lands Of Arravan: Birthright

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Chapter Thirty-Three: Hunting For An Escape

They’d reached the foothills of the mountain, Kaydences feet were sore and torn from the rough terrain.

Not to mention the swamp areas that covered seventy percent of the ground, hiding sharp rocks and decaying wood and leaving him to find out about their existence only when they sliced his flesh.

The skies had darkened since they’d set out, but he wasn’t entirely sure whether it was night rolling in or a storm, as the clouds blackened to the night sky's tone.

His question of the skies plans, however, became apparent when a bolt of lightning shot out and struck the unmarked path ahead.

They were desperate for shelter and didn’t argue against Ida’s words of seeking refuge in a rounded space carved into the mountain, although to reach it, was a tight squeeze through a narrow entrance of uneven rock, especially for Kaydence and his wings.

Chances of lighting a fire were nil and so the group ate and drank what they could manage, using their sense of smell to somewhat determine what it was.

It distressed Kaydence, to know that he could not set eyes on Mayfel’s indigo, he pupils of colour to which he found comfort.

Instead like the rest, he sat swallowed in the frightening and unconventional dark.

“What happened when you were fighting Vallen?” Evan asked a question Kaydence and the others no doubt had wanted to ask but presumed no one would know the answer.

“Do any of you mortals use your mind? It was clear what happened, was it not?” Ida retaliated in the spiteful tone to which they were all accustomed.

Speaking for them all, Erabos spoke with a drawn out voice, one indicating an eroded mind “Mother please” he breathed.

“It’s like what happened when Mayfel and I were bound together, I went into my hallucinations. Vasilios was there and he caused it all”

“Kaydence, It didn’t look like something Vasilios could have done. He has mind controlling powers, not ones that can summon flames from your hands or alter your appearance. I don’t think he is to blame” Mayfel protested, he knew how it sounded he could imagine the looks he was receiving.

“So I’m the one to blame” Kaydence snapped, his nerves which he thought to have calmed only spiked. “I didn’t know what I was doing, I had no choice in the matter. Vasilios was there and he triggered something, I have no ability to do something like that. He’s the one with magic not me, but I guess it’s all my fault isn’t it?”

“I didn’t mean it like that, I didn’t mean to say blame and make it seem as though you were the cause” Mayfel tried to explain, feeling the early effects of tiredness ware at his mind.

Pettily, Kaydence mustered the argument of a child and used I as if it would prove something “But you still said it” he remarked.

“How about you do not take it out on Mayfel? We were all thinking the same thing, it is odd that it happened without the bond and it is suspicious that even when you were both bound the side effects were always one-sided.” Fraya joined the discussion, adding her views and thoughts despite how unwanted they were.

“I don’t understand why you’re fixating on me when we still have the problem of being hunted and possibly found before we escape. Not to mention, the fact that my mother risked her life for us to escape”

“Necromancy never ends well, nothing ever returns correctly and as they were before they perished, your mother exceeded her limit and Vasilios influenced her entire being so there would have been and is no escape for her”

“Then why could he not prevent her attacks?” Erabos asked uncertain of how his mother would reply, she had told him of his father but would never go too in depth, occasionally reflecting on his questions if she didn’t feel like answering.

“Elanor’s mind is no longer malleable like our own, it has been in the clutches of death for too long. Not one, not even Vasilios can control death or its victims. You should all rest, we have a way to climb tomorrow and we leave early”

“That was a cheery nighttime story” Evan mocked soullessly.

Shuffling against the cave floor told Kaydence that they were hunkering down for the night.

He himself sat with his back against the wall, his eyelids were heavy and yet he refused to let them close, not that he could see more than what he’d see if they were closed.

Too much was rushing through his mind, too many unanswered questions that were spun into riddles by Vasilios.

A hand made its way onto Kaydences own, their fingers linking together, he knew it to be Mayfel, there was no mistaking the slender and gentle hands that showed the work he’d committed himself to over the years.

He could feel the warmth reach his own hand, it made him wonder how cold he actually was.

Kaydence didn’t say a word and neither did his partner, but even though he couldn’t see him, he knew he was looking in his direction.

Mayfel’s thumb ran along the side of Kaydences own, something he did often as they laid in bed waiting for sleep to take them.

When morning arose and the little light that did shine in Pailings, Kaydence got a good look at the world around him.

In a typical rocky cave, Ida and Erabos in front of him, Ida were awake but the latter was still soundly asleep.

Evan was across to the left of him, light snores sipping pat his parted lips, his grown hair covering his eyes.

Fraya was awake also, her purple eyes perplexed as she stared at the ground and Mayfel, well he was still asleep, their hands still joined although Kaydences hand was the one keeping them that way.

Even now with enough light, he was being kept from the Indigo irises. The world was so cruel.

“We should wake them, we must begin our way to the halfway mark as soon as possible before Vallen and Vasilios can narrow down their searches” Ida stated, her brain seeming to have already switched into gear.

“Just a little longer” Kaydence grumbled back, the palms of his hands finding his closed, sore eyes.

Delicately waking her own son who blinked open his eyes, tiredness evident on his face, Ida muttered back “We may not have a little longer” as if to not disturb or alert Erabos to her confrontations.

It was then, that Kaydence noticed the box containing the stones, tucked under her arm, her bad mood was probably egged on by the fact that she couldn’t retrieve the Elder Book herself.

He was surprised she had left it behind so easily in all honesty, considering how determined she was to have it.

She was sly, just like her husband and light fingered too.

Kaydence gave Mayfel’s hand a light Squeeze as he gently called his name despite a part of him being hesitant to wake the poor man knowing how he gets when he’s disturbed.

Nevertheless, he got him to stir and as predicted, Mayfel began to grumble as his eyes fluttered open, casting shadows over the already dark and heavy crescents beneath his eyes.

Kaydence knew one thing, Pailings definitely had the ability to drain one of their energy, they’d barely lone much but his body and mind were at their wit's end.

It was even a struggle to blink most of the time as his eyes so desperately wanted to stay closed, still, they had half a mountain to climb, nothing as steep as Evangelis, but rough terrain nonetheless.

“What time is it?” Mayfel mumbled groggily.

Answering honestly, partially fearing for his life seeing as there were no soft pillows for Mayfel to throw in his direction and instead were rocks and a handful of possible pebbles. “I don’t know”

“There aren't any clocks dumbass” Evan complained having been woken up by the chattering.

“Who are you calling a dumbass?” Mayfel retaliated, his tiredness slowly sprouting into annoyance.

Evan, too making rash decisions, spoke back with little thought or sympathy for someone who was most likely feeling the same way “You” he said matter of factly.

“Pack it in” Fraya snapped, speaking on all of their behalfs.

She dusted odd her skin tight jeans and pale zip-up jacket, it was odd seeing a fae dressed in such human clothing Kaydence thought, although it did make sense though since she lived in the human city.

Kaydence knew all about blending in with his surroundings, despite him not being too good at it, for obvious reasons.

Taking a collection of dried fruits from his bag, Kaydence was sent back to when he and Mayfel had first set out on their journey which now seemed like nothing.

They had all but survived on dried fruit when the nightlife had been scarce and birds became few and far between, it was a fond memory now although the feelings of hunger could still be felt.

Offering the bag to Mayfel, who gratefully digs in, Kaydence popped a few of the slices he’d previously selected from the bag, into his mouth.

No one other than Ida seemed to have the motivation to go on, Fraya appeared to be lost in thought, Evan seemed about ready to doze off in a sitting position, Erabos across the way was almost awake but held a staring competition with the wall and Mayfel was quiet, not that he was overly talkative, but it was clear there were things on his mind.

Kaydence couldn’t blame him when his own questions had refused to die down and let him sleep, his body was running on fumes by now and he didn’t know how much longer he could go on before he ran out of steam.

After the ordeal with the fight against Vallen, it was like It burnt away any trace of stamina and focus as if it had all been snatched away and used for the sole purpose of eating Vallen, even if it was impossible with the protective barrier keeping him safe.

Even if they got back to the King, with Vasilios still alive or dead, what were they supposed to do? The attacks would continue and no doubt increase tenfold until Vasilios felt as if he had created enough fear and obedience into the people of Arravan.

Maybe it was the end, maybe they really couldn’t be saved.

Or perhaps there was a chance, a slim one but a chance nonetheless where Vasilios could be stopped, the man had said it himself, Kaydence had magic flowing through him.

Maybe it would be enough to end Vasilios, solve a few issues like his father who would become vulnerable without the protective spell.

But then there was the case of his mother, she may have looked lost but he had to believe she was still herself, the same woman Dalamis grew up knowing, the mother that would read to him and that had sacrificed her life to try and protect them. He had to believe she could be saved.

“Let’s get moving” Ida recommended, her voice somewhat toned down as if sleep had too caught up with her. “Someone should keep a watch of the skies as we proceed, Vasilios will have Vallen scouting form above so we must attempt to stick to the shadows as much as possible.”

Unsteadily standing, giving Mayfel a hand up as well when he’d found his feet, Kaydence got ready to move.

They began to filter out, seeing Ida, Xenia and Erabos leave first, followed by Fraya and Evan.

Before Mayfel could step out into the narrow passage, Kaydence stopped him.

“What is it?” Mayfel asked, knowing full well he wouldn’t hold him back at such a dangerous time.

“I’m scared,” Kaydence said with no shame.

“Of what exactly?”

“Myself, of the things Vasilios has told me”

“You shouldn’t let it get to you as much”

Exasperatedly, Kaydence replied “How could I not? It’s not natural and for all we know, I could be dangerous”

“You responded to my voice didn’t you?”

“Yes, but what if next time I don’t?” he asked with evident worry and concern.

“Why would there be a next time? As you said, it was Vasilios’ doing, so if we keep you away from him, it should be alright”

“He got in my mind before when we were bound to one another, there’s nowhere I can go where his mind entering abilities can’t reach,” he said hopelessly.

“Then show him, prove to him that your mind isn’t somewhere he can just waltz into” Mayfel encouraged.

“It’s not as easy as that”

“You can do anything if you put your mind to it, you survived battle after battle, fought someone you knew you couldn’t win against and the denied the chance to gain power. Don’t be so quick to dismiss your willpower” he reminded him.

His worry not kept at bay by any of the sincere words Mayfel pressed to his ears, Kaydence said “If it happens again, I want you to stay clear, I don’t want you anywhere near me” with Mayfel’s life at the front of his mind, as usual, valuing the life he loved more than his own, as he had once done with Bregan.

“I will be calling out your name” Mayfel responded leaving no room for discussion as did his movements leading him after the others in the shadows of the overhanging rocks.

The humid air was going to be a challenge to travel in, not to mention the dust infesting it as they trampled across the dry earth that had gone from wetlands to a desert in a matter of a mile.

It was a much less pleasant climb than Evangelis because at least during their tiring climb back then, there were signs of flourishing life around them and brilliant view.

In Pailings, however, there was not a twig, shrub or clump of grass in sight, just a desert, that of which you’d expect to see in Alden, although even there they had a degree of vegetation and life.

The group hadn’t even been walking half an hour but Kaydences shirt had already soaked through and was clinging to his body with sweat despite the sun not showing its face.

Looking at the others, they appeared to be in a similar state and for a brief minute, he wondered if Fraya regretted her wardrobe choice.

Most of them had stripped off what they could but it wasn’t doing any good and with no sign of cooling wind to soothe the blaring heat, they pressed on.

All followed Ida like a herd of sheep up the winding path until it reached the point where Kaydence couldn’t tell how high up they were, that was before they came to a cliffside, a sheer drop of nearly two-hundred feet sitting in their way.

“Mother, how are we to cross this?” Erabos asked peering into the chasm.

“I do not know. Before Vasilios killed this realm, there were trees that grew up the side of this cliff and their branches would weave into a bridge across. But now…” she said looking down at the bottomless trench where spear-like branches pointed back towards her.

Mayfel was next to ask a question “Is there another way around?” he said.

“It is possible, however, I was hoping this way would be the one we would use”

“I think we will have to stray from the path” her son suggested.

With a heavy chest Ida replied “It appears so” she said “Gather what strength and energy you can, the next part will not be easy. We will travel through a place that was not visited often, even before Vasilios ruined the land”

“That’s comforting to know” Mayfel noted.

“You will need to be sure of your footing as well as your lives. Creatures once lived there, it may not be so anymore but if they have somehow survived then they would change, much like the rest of the animals here” Ida informed then, a great warning underlying her tone.

“What sort of creatures?” Fraya asked cautiously.

“One’s I do hope we do not meet. They were gruesome things that lurked in the shadows of jagged rocks, resembling humans but they were anything but.”

“Where did they come from? Wasn’t it all perfect here with all you sorcerers?” Evan questioned fearfully.

“Perfection is an illusion, in the lightest of places darkness lingers. These foul beasts were found unexpectedly, they fear the sunlight and so cower beneath the surface”

Taken by surprise by his mother's spoken words, Erabos said “I never knew about this” apparently, like a few other things, his mother failed to mention to him as he was growing up.

“It was never necessary for you to know, I never planned to return here”

“If nothing is perfect, then what was wrong with your ream?” Kaydence asked arrogantly, nevertheless, the others took interest in his question and eagerly awaited Ida’s response.

Maintaining her composure, the glimmer of frustration creeping through gradually as she pulled herself together to reply, Ida spoke back to him against her better judgement.

“My realm no longer exists, but if you so much desire to know. The stones were a plague I took in and cared for, they brought nothing but misfortune in the long run”

“Okay, but the stones weren’t always there with you. So what was the imperfection before that?” he relentlessly poked.

“It was the humans and fae that made my home a resort to travel to and use as they wished”

“Didn’t you all coexist though?” Mayfel asked naively, remembering the old tales they all knew. “The tales say that you all got along”

“Tales are nothing but that. You, mortals, whitewash everything and coexistence is an unattained dream, it never existed and never will” she spat harshly although kept her eyes on the chasm.

“Not much is known about the creatures” Xenia piped up from her usual silence, seemingly choosing the moments she deemed right to share her thoughts. “They were discovered by human hikers who chose a more difficult route for exploration. What they found, however, left them in a state of distress”

“Did they survive?” Fraya asked.

“They survived yes, but, they were never the same. Of course, some ventured along the same trail but found nothing, although some didn’t dare trace their steps up this mountain and find out for themselves. If any travelled this way, they stuck to the path”

“Until now, apparently” Kaydence muttered.

Being the voice of reason, Erabos voiced some suggestions “As long as we make it through while the light is still somewhat here, we should make it”

“That is the plan, my boy.” Ida stated distantly.

“Do these things have a name? Like the Dwellers and Mother of your realm?” Mayfel said, crossing his fingers that the name wouldn’t be as terrifying as the one belonging to the beasts in Mater Arbor.

“Due to you mortals' inability to see anything go unclaimed, they were indeed named. A man, whose name and face I do not care to remember, began the trend of their name, it is absurd if you ask me. But he insisted on the name Mons Angeli, or in the more modern tongue, Mountain Angels.”

If Kaydence had learnt anything, it was that there was no such thing as angels and that anything given the name was usually the opposite.

“Aren’t Angels supposed to be a symbol of hope?” he asked thinking perhaps it was him that was confused about the true meaning.

“Indeed, that is why your clan holds the title of Fallen Angels”

Saving them from another fight, catching sight of Kaydences agitation, Fraya intervened “Why call them angels if they attack people?” she noted.

“The answers lie in the history and out of my memory” Ida responded looking into her deep purple irises.

“What happens if we do run into them?” Evan questioned nervously, from the back of the group.

“If anything were to happen to any of you, we leave you behind. We cannot risk going back to save you, however, if the stones were to be seized then we will protect them with our lives”

“It’s good to know that you cherish the stones more than your own son and friend’s lives” Kaydence scorned with disbelief and outrage in his voice, his eyes resembling that of a stormy blue and the blazing sun.

“It is a difficult choice, but the stones are never to end up in the wrong hands”

“You keep saying that, but how do we know your hands have good intentions? For all we know, you will use them for revenge” he argued, his nerves flaring with each sentence that slipped from her toxic lips.

“I have no interest in revenge, the stones will not aid me in recreating my lands”

“Then what is your infatuation with them?” he said exasperatedly.

“I don’t wish to listen to your repeated argument, why can you not accept that my mother is doing good? That she has intentions for good and not the destruction of the world?” Erabos stood in, his body positioning just in front of his mother should Kaydence lunge for her.

“How can you say that, when your mother cares more for some glowing rocks, more than you” he stated as if trying to make it clear to a brick wall.

“Because I understand, lives are disposable, but these stones will live on through centuries and they carry inside more power than you could fathom. Things like this must be guarded”

“And what do you plan to do with the stones?” Mayfel asked sternly, drawing the sorcerer’s red, green and silver gazes.

Silence ensued bringing to question whether Ida was devising a lie to feed them or attempting to find the proper words.

The way her eyes flicked to her son and close friend, clearly showed there was something she was trying to hide.

“To give them to the King” She finally answered with her confident attitude.

“I didn’t see that coming” Kaydence uttered under his breath earning an elbow jabbed into his ribs from both Fraya and Mayfel.

“My mother, Xenia and I came to the conclusion that Solon has our people’s best interest at heart and that he would be a good guardian. However, we will continue to keep a close eye on him nonetheless, seeing as he so easily lost them under the watch of Evangelis”

“It wasn’t Solon’s fault that those things took them, they are invisible and so couldn’t be helped” Kaydence argued in the King’s defence.

“Enough squabbling” Ida announced, her tone rushed as she pointed to the tunnel past the splintered and jutting spears of rock, the grim light visible on the other side.

“That is the way we must go”

“After you” Kaydence stated flatly.

“You might want to try and use those wings of yours unless you want your feet to be spliced to ribbons,” she said before ambling agilely over to the tunnel, Xenia and her son following at a near pace with Fraya and Evan behind.

Peering at Kaydences feet, Mayfel couldn’t determine what was mud, blood or swamp water anymore “Do you want me to carry you?” he asked, just able to discern the cuts and grazes that were undoubtedly painful, yet Kaydences fault for refusing footwear.

“No thank you, Ida is right for once, I have wings for a reason and I might as well use them”

“You have wings that have been injured, that are unable to work like they used to” he noted

“They’ll need a stretch” Kaydence stated before Mayfel could reply and leapt into the air, gliding across the razor rocks.

Mayfel had to admit, Kaydence was covering a lot of distance, at least until he began to descend and his toes got hideously closer to the ground.

Kaydence flapped his wings but as expected, it didn’t provide any more height, instead, it pushed him just far enough so that he made it into the mouth of the tunnel, landing with a crash on the floor, a plume of dust enveloping his body.

Using his agile and light-footed ability that he used to hunt, Mayfel hopped from one flat spot to another until he joined the others that awaited Kaydence in his ascension to his feet.

Scrapes littered his forearms and across one cheek where he’d connected with the ground, all of which Mayfel observed as he approached.

“You were close,” he said

“I’m still a bit dodgy on the landings”

“You’ll learn” Mayfel stated fondly with surety in his eyes.

Sheepishly he cast his eyes to the floor “I don’t plan on trying it again if I’m being honest”

“This way” Ida instructed as she drew the group along

The pathway through the cave-like tunnel was brief and darker than the skies above, but it was somewhat nicer to see the actual colour of black instead of the poisoned green-black their eyes were forced to witness.

It did increase his exhaustion, his body missing the time where it could sleep through the night and enjoy the days, but he had denied it the chance for so many days.

The other side of it offered flatter lands appearing no more luscious than those they had passed through.

From up high, they could see more of the poison that ran beneath the earth and also above it with the crackling, croaking, distorted birds flapping overhead with crooked wings.

It was as if they were the only living things there, besides From Vallen and Vasilios, but that was only if you classed the horrors as living.

Taking a twig from her pocket, Ida attempted to grow it to a staff as she had done before, only this time, it didn’t respond to her magic.

The tree appendage remained as it was, the leaves that protruded hanging withered and brown.

“It is very powerful dark magic,” Xenia said as she fell into step beside her dear friend.

“Clearly, I feel the strain of it also. It is definitely dampening my magic and I fear that if we do not hurry, I will exhaust myself completely”

“Mother, are you alright,” Erabos asked with concern because no matter what his mother strived for, she was still his parent.

“Do not worry my son. I am indeed weakening, but I will last, I am more concerned for Xenia who we rely on now for our escape” she stated grimly, not showing much courage which contradicted her words.

Turning to the woman in question, Erabos asked for confirmation “Do you think you will be able to do it?”

Without a shadow of a doubt or hint of hesitation, she responded, her features soft and determined.

“Of course, if it saves you and your mother, then I will push the boundaries”

“After all of these long years, you remain dear to me, my friend”

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